Barn Owls Tyto alba and Common Kestrels Falco tinnunculus are being encouraged by farmers in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to control agricultural pests instead of using harmful chemicals. “The two species provide round-the-clock predation of mice, rats and voles and have been used throughout history as natural pest controllers”, said Dr Yossi Leshem - Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI; BirdLife in Israel). “A pair of Barn Owls alone can eat over 2,000 rodents in a year!”
“Israel is very important for birds of prey - raptors living here year-round are joined by migrants which soar through on thermals in the spring, and birds which stay the winter”, noted Yossi. Sadly, in 1997 large numbers of raptors were accidentally poisoned in Israel’s Bet-She’an and Hulas Valleys after eating prey which contained harmful levels of pesticides.
“We needed an alternative to using chemicals, and knew that Barn Owls and Common Kestrels - two of the most abundant raptors living in Israel - have been used as agricultural pest controllers around the world”. However, modern development has reduced the number of suitable nest sites available in barns, attics and deserted buildings. “This was easily remedied by proving next boxes which were eagerly inhabited by the birds”, said Dr Leshem.